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Healthy Plant Roots: Why You Need Them, How To Guarantee Them

Your crops’ health starts underground at their roots. The size of your grow container, the temperature of your grow environment, and how frequently you water your crops all impact plants’ root health and can either prevent root problems, like root rot, or make them virtually inevitable.

We know a healthy harvest is your goal, and we want you to enjoy that healthy harvest as much as you do. To help you achieve your goal, we’re going to tell you:

  • What roots do for plants
  • What causes root rot
  • The role of beneficial bacteria in keeping roots healthy
  • How you can harness beneficial bacteria to keep your plants in good shape

Ensure a great harvest from the moment you plant your crops by first focusing on their root health. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself harvesting puny, dull flowers. That is, if your crops survive to harvest.

Why Your Plants’ Root Health Is So Important

Roots are your plants’ lifeline in many ways. If you grow in soil, roots securely ground your plants in the soil. In any grow setup, they’re how the plant takes nutrients into its stalk, stems and leaves. These nutrients are the building blocks of life. Without them, a plant cannot produce chlorophyll, grow or develop its flowers.

Picture your plants’ roots as straws the plant uses to suck up nutrients from their rhizosphere. Nutrients, like phosphorus and potassium, ensure crop development through the grow cycle. Thicker roots can suck up more nutrients at once, while longer roots can reach further into the plant’s rhizosphere to make use of all that’s present in its soil or hydro solution.

However, roots are more than just nutrient straws. They also condition the plant’s rhizosphere by secreting compounds that interact with the microorganisms present in the environment and antibiotics that kill nematodes and parasites that can destroy roots. The secretions make microorganisms more effective at their jobs, which include protecting the plant from disease and creating space for new roots to develop by eating dead root matter. This ultimately strengthens the plant by increasing its capacity to take up nutrients.

Beneficial microbes and roots have a symbiotic relationship. They interact with each other and crops also benefit from the presence of beneficial bacteria and fungi. In addition to eating dead root matter and increasing root reach, beneficial microbes are hard at work in the root zone performing the following tasks:

  • Maintaining the correct pH in the rhizosphere
  • Making nutrients more bioavailable to the crop by breaking them into digestible forms
  • Secreting growth and bloom cofactors into the crop, boosting its essential oil production
  • Establishing and maintaining a balanced rhizosphere
  • Increasing nutrient transportation to the plant

If your roots aren’t healthy, then your crops aren’t healthy. And one of the most effective ways to keep your roots healthy is to use beneficial microbes, i.e., nature’s invisible army, as part of your grow system. Roots set the tone for the plant’s entire health status, and when they’re dying or underperforming or infected with a disease, so too is the rest of the plant.

What Do Healthy Plant Roots Look Like?

You know how you can tell a plant is healthy by touching and looking at it? When you’re in the grocery store picking produce, you sort through the different pieces to find the ones that feel solid, ripe and ready to eat. You don’t take the ones that are too soft or discolored — rathert, you take the ones that look and feel healthy.

Recognizing healthy plant roots is not much different. Healthy root zones are densely clustered, but you should be able to see every individual root strand. Healthy roots are thick and feel robust between your fingers, not wimpy. They’re muscular and built to work.

What Color Are Healthy Plant Roots?

Healthy plant roots are light in color, either white or a light shade of tan.

Brown roots on plants are one sign that your crops are suffering from root rot. Black roots are another. Although the nutrients and other products you use can stain your roots to a slightly darker hue than the healthy white you strive to achieve, they should never be dark brown or black.

Unhealthy plant roots aren’t just discolored. If your roots smell bad, if they’re thin and weak and spindly, or if they break easily, then you’ve got unhealthy roots. The thought of your precious plants suffering from root rot can be upsetting, but if you find yourself in this unfortunate position, all hope isn’t lost. You can reverse root rot and not just restore your crops’ roots to their former healthy selves, but build them to be stronger than they were before. The key to repairing roots and sustaining healthy growth is using a plant root stimulator that delivers an army of beneficial bacteria and reinforcements your root zone’s need to stay safe and healthy.

How Beneficial Bacteria Helps Plants Fight Off Pathogens And Pests

Soil microorganisms like those in the bacillus family, particularly bacillus subtilis, help plants fight off pathogens by teaching them how to respond to the harmful bacteria when an infection occurs. Pathogens include those found in various fungi species, viruses and nematodes.

Beneficial bacteria also plays the role of vaccine for plants. This is as true for plants that have never encountered harmful pathogens as it is for plants facing an infection.

A recent study published by The Plant Journal examined an experiment conducted to see how well bacillus subtilis inoculates plants against harmful pathogens. Two groups of plants were exposed to pseudomonas syringae, a harmful pathogen that infects many different species. For one group, bacillus subtilis was added to plants’ soil. This group produced abscisic acid that closed its stomata — the pores in plants’ roots and other parts of the plant — to block out the disease-causing bacteria. Among the plants treated with bacillus subtilis, 43 percent of stomata were still open three hours after treatment, compared with 56 percent in the control group.

Root Rot

As a grower, root rot is one of your worst nightmares. Here’s the quick and dirty on root rot.

What Causes Root Rot?

Root rot occurs when roots don’t have access to sufficient oxygen. This can be the result of a few distinct issues,including overwatering and improper aeration in the grow environment.

Root rot can also result from bacterial infection. Keeping your plants in water that’s too warm, approximately room temperature or above 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius), increases their risk of bacterial infection because this temperature facilitates pathogen growth. Additionally, warm water maintains less oxygen than slightly cooler water.

How To Fix Root Rot

The right way to treat root rot depends on how badly crops are afflicted. If it hasn’t impacted your plant’s entire root zone, remove the plant from its container, prune the rotted roots, and replant it in a new container with fresh root-zone materials. For a plant that’s been badly impacted by root rot, a mild hydrogen peroxide solution can do the trick. Run a crop-safe solution through your irrigation system to kill the bacteria. When you’re finished, reinstall beneficial bacteria.

And to keep root rot from coming back, make sure you do the following:

  • Use reverse osmosis water in your grow environment
  • Use aerators to ensure sufficient oxygenation
  • Use chillers to keep your root zone cool
  • Follow the instructions on every nutrient and supplement you use closely

Root Nutrients Your Crops Need

Your crops need a variety of nutrients to grow strong roots. Phosphorus and potassium are necessary for sustained root development. Root stimulators provide crops with beneficial bacteria that helps them take in more nutrients and make more efficient use of them.

Using An Advanced Nutrients Root Stimulator

Advanced Nutrients has several root stimulators available to growers, including Tarantula and Piranha.

Tarantula delivers 10 million viable beneficial bacteria per gram, making it the strongest root stimulator available to growers. Piranha delivers beneficial fungi that make any grow environment more fertile for sustained root growth. You can use one, you can use both, or you can use them alongside Voodoo Juice, Advanced Nutrients’ flagship root mass expander.

Paying Attention To Your Roots Will Pay Off Later

That’s really the crux of it — when you make it a priority to build and maintain strong, healthy roots, your efforts will pay off later in the form of a big, healthy harvest.

You can’t get a great harvest without healthy roots, but healthy roots alone won’t get you a great harvest. Harnessing humates can help you enhance the chelation process, knowing when and how to properly flush your plants before harvest, and feeding crops appropriately will enable you to grow healthy, genetically optimized crops.


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About the Author

The Advanced Nutrients Team

Since 1999, Advanced Nutrients has been committed to educating the community and bringing the most up-to-date knowledge to the forefront of grows across the globe. Every article you read here has been curated by Advanced Nutrients’ industry experts, so you can continue raising your bud weight… and your reputation.

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Over time, components within the nutrients settle on the bottom of the bottle. When you pour a bottle without shaking it, you can potentially be pouring out an unbalanced solution. Shaking up the nutrient bottle ensures you are pouring the right blend into your reservoir, giving your crops the nutrition they need.

Usually, it’s not a problem. But some products are incompatible with each other and can damage your plants when they’re used together. For example, bloom boosters with high PK numbers or low-grade silica products can destabilize your nutrient mix and cause nutrient lockout.

Nutrient manufacturers design their products to be used with each other. In doing so, they include specific portions of each nutrient in each product, so crops receive the right nutrition through each stage of the grow cycle. When you stick with one manufacturer, you don’t have to worry about inadvertently destabilizing your nutrient mixture. One example of why you need to stick with only one manufacturer’s products is Advanced Nutrients’ pH Perfect line. These products are designed to keep your crops’ root zone within a specific pH range. When you use them alongside products from another manufacturer, we can’t guarantee your root zone will maintain its optimal pH level.

Yes! If you’re growing with Advanced Nutrients products, you can use our easy nutrient calculator to generate the correct nutrient chart for your crops in seconds. Check out Advanced Nutrients’ nutrient calculator here. Another great resource is our library of free custom-growing recipes. Try our expert grower-tested nutrient schedules here.

You can also download our official BudLabs app to generate nutrient schedules and receive real-time notifications for specific tasks, including feeding your crops. Upgrade to BudLabs Pro to maintain profiles on an unlimited number of crops.

If you are a grower, visit this link to find the closest Advanced Nutrients Authorized Retailer. If you are a retailer, visit this link to identify our official distributors.

Our greatest passion is growing great cannabis—and helping other growers do the same. That’s why we offer complimentary cultivation support 24/7 from Monday to Friday and from 9 AM until 7 PM PST on Saturday… With the same level of advice licensed producers would pay consultants tens of thousands of dollars to unlock.
Just call 1-800-640-9605 or email support@advancednutrients.com. For Spanish-speaking growers, email spanishsupport@advancednutrients.com.

Yes! If for any reason you are not absolutely thrilled with the results you achieve when you use our products, just bring the unused portion, along with your original sales receipt, back to the place of purchase within six months, and ask for your money back. Find out more about our Grower Guarantee here.

Advanced Nutrients has spent many thousands of man-hours developing a technology that automatically balances your pH for you — putting it in the “sweet spot” and holding it there for one week.

And the technology is so “smart” that it can account for many of the aforementioned variables in your grow room. Our proprietary pH buffering agents and stabilizing mechanisms became the foundation of a new system aptly called pH Perfect® Technology. Learn all about it here.

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